Captain Quincy Allen.

The Outdoor Chums After Big Game Or, Perilous Adventures in the Wilderness online

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I could ever recognize you, in case we met, and he put up his hand to
his head, but I never heard the rest of it."

"Why, of course, he was going to tell you that I had a mop of beautiful
red hair, and that Teddy went with Reddy. I guess you'd have known me if
you'd heard that," was the good-natured remark of the found one.

On the following day the four outdoor chums determined to set out in a
bunch to have a grand hunt, following the dense woods far down the
valley. The last words of the old stockman were a caution in connection
with the dry grass.

"Be careful about a fire, lads. If you make one, be sure the last spark
is out before you leave it. A forest fire would play the mischief just
now, with everything so dry. But somehow, I've got hopes that the rain
is coming soon," and he looked into the west, as though the few
low-down clouds gave him encouragement.

When noon came the boys had put up a couple of elk, but at such a
distance that no one but Bluff fired, and he because he knew no better.

"Do you think I wounded him?" he had the nerve to ask, whereat Jerry
looked at Frank and just smiled broadly.

"Anyhow, they ran off faster after I fired," asserted Bluff confidently.

"I should think anything would," was all Jerry said, and if there was
malice in the remark Bluff did not know it in his innocence.

While they sat down to eat the lunch they had carried along Frank called
attention to the fact that the wind had risen.

"Perhaps Mr. Mabie was right, after all, and there is a rainstorm coming
before long," suggested Will.

"Then I hope it'll have the decency to hold off until we get home," said
Bluff.

"Oh, a little wetting wouldn't hurt us. We're not made of sugar or salt.
But perhaps we'd better not go any further. We've come a long way since
breakfast. This valley seems to have no end, and it broadens out down
here, too."

"Yes; and, Frank, have you noticed how thick the trees grow, too? Why,
in some places a fat man would have trouble getting through between the
trunks," said Jerry.

"What ails Frank? He seems to be sniffing the air like a hound," asked
Will.

"Oh, he always declared he had a fine scent, and I've noticed that he
knows when dinner is ready, ahead of the rest of us," remarked Jerry.

Frank laughed good-naturedly.

"To tell the truth, I was wondering, fellows, whether we could be near
another camp," he remarked.

"Did you hear anybody shout?" asked Will.

"No; but when there came a sudden shift to the wind I thought I got a
scent of fire. No, it wasn't cooking, this time, Jerry, so don't get
ready to accuse me of that weakness again; just something burning."

"Say! you don't think it could be the woods afire, do you?"

"Talk to me about your ghost-seers, will you! Will, here, can jump on to
trouble quicker than any fellow I know. Why, if the woods were on fire,
don't you think we'd have found that fact out before now, Mr. Faint
Heart? I guess such a thing couldn't happen without a heap of smoke that
would look like a pall, and appal us, in the bargain."

"Well, all I can say is, I'm not hankering after any forest fire
experience after what Mr. Mabie told us about those friends of his who
were nearly burned to death seven years ago; and that was a prairie
fire, too," observed Will, continuing to cast anxious glances around.

"Amen to that," remarked Bluff.

"Why, you must think I'm just wild to try my legs, with a healthy blaze
jumping after me; but I'm not, all the same. Come along, Lazy-bones!
We're going to have the delightful pleasure of covering those ten miles
back again," and Jerry pulled Will to his feet.

"Ten miles!" groaned the other dismally, making a pretense of hobbling,
as if his muscles had given out. "How in the world can I ever do it?"

"Well, sing out when you want to stop. We'll hang you up in a tree, safe
and sound, just as I did that wolf I got; and later on one of the boys
can come for you with a horse," was Jerry's cheerful remark.

"Oh, I'd hate to put you to any additional trouble, so I'll try my best
to limp along," replied Will, who, of course, was only shamming, in that
he was not half so tired as he tried to make out.

So they turned their faces toward the home camp, and started trudging
along, now and then calling to one another as something caught their
fancy.

Will had had little opportunity to make use of his picture-taking
machine this trip. His stock of films was beginning to run low, and only
special subjects must claim his attention from now on. Besides, he had
several views of the great woods, and the light was so poor under the
trees that it required a time exposure to bring out the details.

"I think it's a mean shame none of you fellows think enough of me to get
up some sort of excitement, in order to let me snap you off," he was
saying as he tramped along.

"Tell me about that, will you! The chap really thinks that it's our duty
to do all sorts of remarkable stunts, in order that he may have the
pleasure of snapping us off in ridiculous positions!"

"Hear! hear! That was the finest speech I ever knew Jerry to put up. As
a rule, he leaves the heavy talk to me, and is satisfied to just grunt
out his ideas. But look here, Frank, I believe you were right," said
Bluff, stopping to elevate his nose in a significant fashion.

"Oh! dear me! Do you smell smoke, too?" demanded Will.

"Why, so do I, now that you mention it. And say! just cast your eyes
back of us, fellows! Don't it seem as though there was more or less
smoke in the woods over yonder?" asked Jerry.

The four boys now showed sudden animation.

"Hark to the wind, too! It's beginning to make a sound up there in the
tree-tops. Which way is it coming, Frank?" asked Will.

Frank's face began to assume a serious look. The wind was fairly growing
stronger with every passing minute. If the woods should be afire, this
would whip the flames furiously, and send them speeding along at a
dangerous pace.

"It begins to look bad for us, boys," he remarked.

"What! Do you really mean it, or are you just trying to play a joke?"

"You know me better than that, Will. There is certainly a brush fire
back there. Some camper has left his fire, and the rising wind has
carried it into the dead leaves," said Frank soberly, surveying his
surroundings.

"Could we push forward and put it out before it does any damage?" asked
Bluff.

"I'm afraid it's too late for that now. See there! The smoke is getting
thicker and thicker all the time. Boys, we might as well look the matter
straight in the face."

"What do you mean, Frank?" asked Will in a trembling voice.

"We must cut and run for it, that's all, for the fire is coming
swiftly!"




CHAPTER XXI

NEVER GIVE UP


At first, the boys made light of the flight. All of them were pretty
fair runners, and although the weather was warm for such exertion, they
did some clever work.

"It's getting worse back there!" said Will, who brought up the rear.

Frank had known this for several minutes, and was correspondingly
worried.

The wind had risen to such an extent that it rushed through the
tree-tops like an express train, making a doleful sound. Nor was this
all, for they could plainly hear a crackling from the rear that was
gradually becoming a subdued roar.

"Oh! I saw the fire then!" called Will a minute or two later.

Looking over their shoulders as they ran, all of them had glimpses of
the flames leaping hungrily upward. What Mr. Mabie had feared all along
had actually come to pass. All of them were glad, however, that it had
not been through any fault of theirs, since they had built no fire that
day.

"Frank, it's catching up with us! Whatever shall we do?" panted Bluff,
close beside the one he addressed.

Frank had been considering this same question. He at first thought they
might outrun the fire, but now he changed his mind. The woods were so
dense, and the vegetation so thick, that whenever they tried to make
fast time they kept tripping over trailing vines, or else banging up
against the trunks of the forest monarchs, sometimes damaging their
noses by the contact.

"What was he telling us about fighting fire with fire?" asked Jerry, who
was by this time feeling not quite so jaunty as usual, but ready to
seize upon any opening that promised safety.

"That was out on the prairie. I don't think the scheme would work here
in the woods. It would take too long for the second blaze to get a
start, and we'd be caught between the two fires," was Frank's reply.

"But we must do something pretty soon!" cried Will.

[Illustration: "FRANK, IT'S CATCHING UP WITH US!" - _Page 192_.
_The Outdoor Chums After Big Game_.]

Indeed, it would appear so. They were now enveloped in a pall of
smoke, that, entering their eyes, made them smart fiercely. Not only
that, but the fire could be seen in a dozen places behind them, leaping
up into the trees as the dried foliage offered such a splendid torch,
and the wind urged the conflagration along.

"Will's right. The old thing's running us neck and crop. I believe it's
gaining on us right along!" exclaimed Bluff.

"Look for a hollow tree!" cried Jerry.

"Humbug! Just because you once got in one during a storm you think a
hollow tree can be used for nearly anything. Why, we'd be smothered in a
jiffy, even if we didn't get burned to a crisp! Say something else!"
shouted Bluff.

"What is it, Frank - you know?" demanded Will, who, in this time of need,
somehow turned to the one whose cool head had many times managed to
extricate them from some impending danger.

"We've just _got_ to head another way, and try and get out of the path
of the fire, if we can. Besides, the river lies to the left," he
answered, as cheerily as he could.

"The river! Hurrah!" shrieked Will in sudden elation, for the very
thought of water was a blessed relief when threatened by fire.

"We can duck under, and save our bacon!" cried Jerry.

"There you go, confessing to the swine again," declared Bluff.

But in spite of their light words the boys were by this time thoroughly
alarmed. The appearance of the burning woods in their immediate rear was
appalling, to say the least. High sprang the flames, and their crackling
could now be plainly heard. Indeed, the sound began to assume the
proportions of a continuous roar, such as a long freight train might
make in passing over a trestle and down a grade.

Now that they were running almost sidewise to the advancing fire, it
approached much faster than before.

"I felt a spark on my face, fellows!"

Frank was not at all surprised to hear Will say this, for he, too, had
experienced the same thing not half a minute before. He had not
mentioned the fact, for fear of alarming his chums still more.

"Keep on, fellows!" was all he said, for he needed every bit of breath
he could muster.

Desperately they tried to increase their pace, but found it hard work
with so many obstacles confronting them. Will tumbled more than any of
the others, somehow or other. Perhaps it was because he was carrying his
camera so carefully, and thinking more about it than his own person.

Finally Frank missed him entirely.

"Where's Will gone?" he demanded.

The others, turning, were horrified to find their chum missing.

"Keep right on, you fellows! Don't you dare stop, or follow me! I'll get
Will! The river's close by!" he called out, and then turned around,
retracing his steps directly toward the advancing fire.

Never had Will seemed so precious in the sight of the boy who thus
placed his own life in jeopardy in order to save that of his chum. In
imagination Frank pictured his agony of mind if he had to tell Violet
that her twin brother had perished miserably in a forest fire, while he
escaped.

"Will! Will!" he was shouting frantically, as loud as he could, and this
was not anything to boast of, for the smoke choked him, and he could
hardly keep from coughing almost constantly.

"Hi! Here I am! Lost like the babes in the woods!" sang out a voice.

Frank pounced on his friend, who, with smarting eyes, was fairly
staggering about, hardly knowing which way he was trying to go, having
become more or less rattled by the impending peril and the state of his
own feelings.

"Run for all you're worth, Will!" he said, as he clutched the sleeve of
the other almost fiercely, for they had little chance of eluding those
hungry flames now.

Together they rushed along, Frank's eyes doing double duty, for Will
seemed by this time half blind, and the one free hand was constantly
rubbing his smarting orbs.

"A little further, and we're safe!" he kept calling in the ear of his
nearly exhausted chum.

The heat was beginning to be terrific now. Blazing branches flew through
the air, and set trees on fire all around them.

"It's like the fiery furnace!" Will said three times running, and Frank
really began to fear his companion's mind was getting unsettled from the
fright of their desperate condition.

Oh! if the river would only show up ahead! No doubt the others had, ere
now, gained the glorious haven, and were settled up to their necks in
the water, ready to defy the power of the opposing element. But it was
an open question whether the halting pair could ever make the shelter of
the friendly stream.

"Let me go, Frank! You can make it alone!" pleaded Will.

"Shut up! Keep on running! I tell you we're going to get there, and
don't you think for a minute we ain't!" replied Frank furiously, as he
pulled Will along.




CHAPTER XXII

THE WAR OF THE ELEMENTS


"This way, Frank! Turn a little to the left!"

"That's Jerry shouting! Do you hear him, Will? Keep up your heart! We're
going to cheat the old fire yet!" cried Frank.

His companion seemed to pluck a little new spirit from the encouraging
shout, and his lagging feet began to show more animation. In this way
they hurried out of the already burning forest, and found themselves on
the brink of the swift current of the valley stream.

"Jump in! The water's fine!" shouted Jerry, who, with Bluff, had
submerged himself up to his shoulders.

"But my camera! I can't ruin it in the water!" shouted the obstinate
Will, as he looked eagerly around for some place to conceal the object
which he held in so much reverence.

"Under those rocks! We chucked our guns there!" called Bluff, pointing
out the spot, in his eagerness to help matters along.

Will hastened to thrust the beloved camera into the cavity that lay
beneath the rocks, and Frank, nothing loth, also pushed his rifle into
the same place. Then it was ludicrous to see how quickly they made a
plunge into the river.

Their immersion did not come a minute too soon. Frank knew that Will's
garments were on fire in several places, and did not doubt but that his
own must be in the same condition, for the sparks were raining all
around them.

"This is all right," said the irrepressible Jerry, jumping up and down
as he tried to hold out against the strong current.

"All I know is that we are in luck to have this blessed old river
handy," said Frank, with more or less feeling in his voice, as he
watched the fire flash from tree to tree in pursuing its course.

"Yes, it's a queer world. Only a few days ago it came near ending my
life up at the cataract, and now it makes amends by saving it," remarked
Jerry.

"The fire doesn't seem to jump across the river," observed Will.

"No; and I don't think it will, unless the wind changes quickly," said
Frank.

"But it seems bound to get to our camp inside of an hour or two. What
d'ye suppose they'll do with all the duffle?" inquired Bluff uneasily.

"I'm not worried about that. Mr. Mabie will scent trouble a long way
off, and find a refuge among the rocks, if necessary; but I'm inclined
to think the fire will never get to him," replied Frank.

"Do you believe the wind will shift, then, and blow back on us?" asked
Will.

"I'm not a wind prophet. What I had in mind was that the fire would be
put out before it got three miles from here."

"Put out! Do you mean to say they've a fire department up here?"
demanded Will.

"Why, certainly; but it doesn't cost them a cent to maintain it.
Somebody just pulls the string, and the water comes down," laughed
Jerry.

"Oh! I see now what you mean! It's going to rain!"

"Hear! hear. He's tumbled to it at last! Sometimes it seems to me that
we'll just have to get out a special dictionary for Will, so he can find
the answers to conundrums without waste of time or energy," declared
Bluff.

"That's the penalty every genius has to pay," remarked Will composedly.

Every now and then the boys were compelled to duck their heads beneath
the surface of the river, for the heat became unbearable. When the worst
of the fire had gone by on the wings of the furious wind, things began
to change a bit for the better.

"Say! don't you think we might be getting out of here now?" demanded
Will, whose teeth, strange to say, were rattling together with the chill
of the mountain stream even while the air was still heated around them.

"I suppose it will be safe, and we can stand the heat if it will assist
to dry our clothes. Though for that matter, fellows, it's ten to one we
will be soaked through and through again before we get to camp."

"This is mighty unhealthy, I think. Such rapid changes always encourage
dangerous ailments," remarked Will, whose father, now dead, had been a
physician.

"All the same, I know several fellows who were very much pleased to make
a sudden change a little while back," asserted Jerry.

They crawled out on the bank. Will, of course, made straight for the
rocky niche toward which he had cast many an anxious look while standing
in the river.

"Good! Everything is all right, boys! Not a bit of damage done, that I
can see!" he called out.

They kept close to the river in making their way along. Perhaps the main
idea in this was to have a handy refuge in case a sudden need arose.

"There she comes!" remarked Bluff, in less than ten minutes.

"What? Where?" asked Will, staring around.

A deep bellow of near-by thunder answered him. Then the rain began to
fall in torrents. Will always carried a piece of waterproof cloth, to be
used for wrapping around his precious camera on occasions when it was
threatened with rain. This he brought into use, and at the same time
tried to keep the little black box sheltered as much as possible under
his coat.

From one extreme they had jumped to the other. First it was a
superabundance of fire, and now water began to trouble them.

"I'm soaked through again," announced Jerry dolefully, as he allowed the
wind to carry him along through the blackened timber.

"And I just bet that old fire has been squashed out before this,"
spluttered Bluff. "Don't you say so, Frank?"

"If it hasn't, it soon will be. Did you ever see it come down harder?"

"Must be trying to make up for the drouth of the last two months. Mr.
Mabie said that when it did come we'd likely get a drencher. We're
getting it, all right," declared Jerry.

For another half hour they kept on, though the walking was very hard.

"A fine-looking crowd we are," declared Frank, as he surveyed his
blackened leggings and sodden coat.

"But it seems to me things don't look quite so bad around here,"
observed Will.

"Well, they don't, for a fact. Frank, we've reached the fire limit, I do
believe!" cried Bluff.

Everybody was glad to know it, for many reasons. The walking would be
better, they could by degrees wash off the black stains that had been
covering their clothes, and last, but far from least, the camp would be
safe.

"I'll never forget this day's experience, that's sure," Jerry was
saying, half an hour later, as, they still plodded on, with some miles
still ahead of them that must be gone over before they reached camp.

"And every time I look at the picture of the fire it'll bob up before me
and make me shudder," remarked Will.

"Talk to me about that, will you! Do you mean to say you had the nerve
to stop and snap off some views of that hot old fire while the rest of
us were shinning it as fast as we could?" demanded Jerry.

"Why, of course I did! What do you take me for? Who else would have
preserved that exciting episode for future generations to enjoy, if I
hadn't? That's what I'm here for," replied Will in surprise.

"And I suppose that was what made you so late Frank had to go back and
hunt you up, eh?"

"I suppose it was, Bluff; but don't you scold now. I guess you'll enjoy
those views as much as any one. There's only one thing I regret,
fellows."

"And I can guess what that is. You wish you had taken the rest of us up
to our chins in the drink," remarked Frank, whereat Will nodded eagerly,
crying out:

"Oh! it would have been a great sight! Think how many times it might
chase the blues away when some of us felt downcast! I wish, now, I had
asked you to go back and give me the chance."

"Tell me about that, will you! Was there ever such an
indefatigable - hey, Bluff! Is that the word I want? - artist as our meek
little pard here? Sometimes he seems so timid, and then again he shows
more nerve than the whole bunch put together. I thought I knew him to a
dot, but I confess I'm puzzled," grunted Jerry.

"The rain has stopped, fellows," announced Frank a little later.

"But just look at the river! Must have been a cloudburst, as they call
it out in the Rockies, Mr. Mabie says. It's just rising right before our
eyes!"

"Then they'll have to change the camp, because by this time the water
must be up to where the tents were pitched. Why, see there, Frank! Isn't
that water over yonder, too, on the right of us?" asked Bluff, pointing
through the woods.

"As sure as you live, and rushing madly on, too. We are between two
rivers, it seems, with the water rising like a tidal wave. Perhaps we
may have to take to a tree yet, fellows," announced Frank after a long
look.

"H'm! These trees are sure handy to have around! We shin up one to avoid
all sorts of dangers, it seems to me. And by the looks of that wall of
water coming down on us just now, the sooner we climb, the better for
us!" cried Jerry, suiting his actions to his words, and seizing the
lower limb of a friendly oak, into which he clambered hastily, followed
by his three chums, just as a five-foot wave swept under them, for all
the world resembling a "curler" rolling in from the ocean and up the
beach.




CHAPTER XXIII

THE STAMPEDE


"What d'ye call this, anyway?" exclaimed Bluff, panting with his
exertions.

"I'd say it was crowding the mourners, for these things to chase each
other so fast, and the elements to make playthings out of four confiding
chums," said Frank.

"Tell me about that, will you! First a scorching, then put to soak,
after which comes another hot experience, and now treed by a flood! Upon
my word, things are happening a little too rapid even for me," put in
Jerry.

"There!" remarked Will, with a satisfied chuckle. "I think you three
fellows will make a splendid showing, perched along that limb like a lot
of crows, and the water rolling along below."

"Talk to me about the industrious photographer! If that chap hasn't
taken our pictures in this ridiculous attitude! Why, they'll believe
we've gone back to the old days, when our ancestors used to live in
trees."

"Speak for yourself, Jerry. I refuse to admit that I am descended from a
monkey," declared Bluff indignantly.

"How long do you suppose we may have to hang out here?" asked Will.

"Oh, a day or so, I suppose," replied Jerry, keeping a straight face.

"A day or so! Listen to him say that without a show of feeling! Why,
long before that time elapsed I'd grow so weak from fatigue that I'd
have to be strapped to my limb to keep from falling into the treacherous
water," stammered Will.

"And what of me?" burst out Bluff. "I'd waste away to a mere shadow from
hunger. Sooner than submit to that, I'd try swimming ashore."

"Do you think the water will get any higher? Could it possibly overwhelm
us in this tree? We could climb up twenty feet if necessary."

"Well, I hardly think that emergency is going to arise, Will; not at
this time, at least. To tell the truth, the water is already receding,"
announced Frank, taking pity on Jerry's victims, both of whom looked
worried.

"Oh! do you really think so?" cried Will. "Then Jerry is only up to some
of his old foolishness. Yes, I can see that it does not quite come up to
the wet mark on the trunk of the tree. Then perhaps we won't have to
stay up here all night."

"Well, I guess not. I expect that in less than twenty minutes we'll be


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Online LibraryCaptain Quincy AllenThe Outdoor Chums After Big Game Or, Perilous Adventures in the Wilderness → online text (page 9 of 11)